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Man who jumped off cliff to be arrested on suspicion of missing wife's murder, official says

February 25, 2011 |  1:04 pm

Dawn_viens A Lomita restaurant owner who jumped off an 80-foot cliff after being confronted by sheriff’s deputies is expected to survive and will be arrested in the murder of his wife, who mysteriously disappeared 16 months ago, a sheriff's official said.

David Viens remained in critical condition Friday, two days after plunging from a Rancho Palos Verdes cliff following a brief chase by L.A. County Sheriff's deputies and a struggle with his girlfriend, officials said. Viens has come out of a coma but suffered significant injuries.

“When he is able to be arrested, he will be booked for his wife’s murder,” said Steve Whitmore, a Los Angeles County Sheriff’s spokesman.

His wife, Dawn Viens, 39, disappeared Oct. 18, 2009, after walking away from the couple's restaurant, Thyme Contemporary Cafe, her husband told authorities.

“He was the subject of our investigation for a long time,” Whitmore said of Viens, who never reported his wife missing.

Concerned friends and family members went to authorities three weeks after she vanished. Authorities have enough evidence to connect Viens to his wife's killing, Whitmore said, but they have not determined where her body is.

On the same day Viens dove from the cliff, the Daily Breeze published a story reporting that homicide detectives had recently found blood on the bedroom walls of the Viens’ former home, leading them to conclude she was a homicide victim.

The day before, a Daily Breeze reporter had attempted to talk to Viens at his restaurant, but Viens refused to leave the kitchen. Before being ejected from the restaurant, the reporter told Viens' girlfriend about the evidence detectives had found.

Authorities began distributing fliers this week, seeking to encourage possible witnesses to come forward.

Viens apparently spotted deputies watching him Wednesday morning and sped off in a car, authorities said. In a lighthouse parking lot, Viens and a woman ran out of the car and became involved in a physical struggle, Whitmore said. The woman was later identified as Viens' girlfriend.

Deputies tried to break up the struggle, and Viens complied with their directions, Whitmore said. But then he ran and leaped off a nearby cliff to the beach below. He was rescued and taken to Harbor UCLA Medical Center.

Sheriff’s officials said the girlfriend is cooperating with them.

Viens fell under suspicion shortly after his wife's disappearance, authorities said, and he reportedly told a friend of his wife's that he told his wife to leave their home when she refused to enter rehab.

He told detectives and friends they should look for her in the mountains because she liked it there.

But investigators were skeptical because she did not take her wallet, cellphone or other personal belongings. Suspicions heightened when a woman took over his wife’s job at the Lomita restaurant and moved into his home with him.

Investigators then learned from witnesses that Viens had thrown most of his wife's clothing and personal items in the trash behind their restaurant.


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-- Richard Winton

Photo: Dawn Viens. Credit: KTLA